Is the lockdown helping to push down pollution across East Anglia?

There have been reports of more muntjac deer being seen near roads during the lockdown. Picture: TIM

There have been reports of more muntjac deer being seen near roads during the lockdown. Picture: TIM STYGALL/iWITNESS - Credit: citizenside.com

One positive aspect of the lockdown on economic activity is the reduction in the level of air pollution from the fact there is far less traffic on the roads, fewer factories are operating, and there are much fewer aircraft in the sky.

Contrails are a thing of the past - for now! Picture: RICHARD CORNWELL

Contrails are a thing of the past - for now! Picture: RICHARD CORNWELL - Credit: Archant

The effects on pollution were almost instant – as soon as the vehicle numbers fell, so did the pollution. But that means that when normal economic activity resumes, the pollution rate is expected to return to its previous levels quite quickly.

Exact figures for pollution levels have still to be published – but anecdotally people have commented on the air being cleaner.

Phil Smart, portfolio holder for environment and climate change at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “Although I am yet to see official figures on pollution, I think what we are seeing is that Ipswich is part of a global phenomenon.

“I have only seen one aeroplane over my house in the last 10 days and there clearly have been less cars on our roads and journeys into the town. Public transport is also going down, although it is refreshing to see the government is offering support to public transport companies as they help to tackle pollution when this is all over.”


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Mr Smart added the council will resume aiding Suffolk County Council’s bid for new electric buses thanks to another government scheme.

While air pollution is falling, the increase in the number of times people are washing their hands could have a detrimental impact on the county’s wildlife.

Dr Mark Bowler, lecturer in wildlife, ecology and conservation science at the University of Suffolk, said: “What I am interested in is the effect this may have on our rivers, with people washing their hands more and more. Air pollution does not have the most tenuous impact on wildlife, but what flows into rivers has a direct impact.”

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He did feel that the changes to human activity could have a significant impact on many species across the region with some becoming bolder – but it would not be until much later in the year that there could be any studies to see exactly what those might be: “Unfortunately for now biologists will not know the impacts on breeding and population levels until autumn, but I have heard of animals such as muntjac and pheasants being seen closer to our roads.”

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